Police say drug link found in strangling murder
By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
The strangulation murder of a 37-year-old Kapahulu woman whose body was found buried in a shallow grave above Makakilo last week was drug-related and not the result of a well-planned crime, police said yesterday.
But police need to interview more people and conduct tests before charging anyone with the murder, Honolulu Police Homicide Lt. Bill Kato said.
Tracey Tominaga, a Hilton Hawaiian Village worker and Pearl City graduate, was last seen Jan. 20 and reported missing five days later. Police found her fully clothed body buried on Palehua Ridge, five to six miles above Makakilo last Tuesday.
Seven men last week were arrested in connection with her murder and six were released Sunday pending further investigation.
The remaining man, Jason K. Perry, 23, of Kailua, was also arrested Thursday in connection with another murder case that involved the shooting death of 40-year-old Edward Fuller in Nu'uanu on Jan. 26.
Perry has not been charged in either murder, but has been charged with weapon and drug offenses that police said was uncovered during Fuller's murder investigation. Perry is being held on $1 million bail.
Perry could not be reached for comment last night. Dean Yamashiro, state chief deputy public defender, said Perry was represented by a public defender on the drug and firearm charges in his initial court appearance yesterday, but said it was too early to discuss a defense.
"The two murders are connected and the connection seems to be Jason Perry," Kato said. "We arrested other people, but Jason Perry seems to be the one factor that appears at both homicides. I'm not saying he actually committed both murders, but he was involved in both murders.
"There is a drug angle in definitely one of the homicides, and that's Tracey's. Once we get these guys all charged, then we'll come out and tell everyone what happened. But up until that point, we don't want to let out that much."
Tominaga's friend had been arrested and charged with a Nov. 10 shooting in Kapahulu, but Kato yesterday said that incident was not related to her murder.
Kato said Perry was mentioned by witnesses as a person who visited Tominaga at her apartment and when detectives started checking into Perry they "ran into a few things that didn't seem to be right."
Police released the six other men because they didn't have time to finish cases and charge them within 48 hours, Kato said.
"As it is now, I think we did the right thing," Kato said. "I'd rather down the road come in with a much stronger case and make sure that the people who are responsible get convicted, rather than rush it and lose things along the way."
Kato said the seven men who had been arrested in the Tominaga case met at strip clubs and played a part in her death by concealing her death, destroying evidence or organizing her death.
Kato declined to offer details of Tominaga's murder, but said it was a disorganized crime.
"I think they thought they were organized, but they weren't organized," Kato said. "Obviously, they weren't that organized because we caught them all."
Kato said police planned to confer with prosecutors tomorrow or Thursday in an effort to seek Oahu grand jury indictments against the men.
Perry is charged with the weapon and drug offenses in connection with a police search of his car following his arrest in the Fuller murder case.
Although he has not been charged with that murder, police found a loaded Sig Sauer handgun in a black bag inside the car, which also contained crystal methamphetamine, according to a police affidavit filed in court.
The affidavit said an acquaintance told police that Perry was dealing drugs with him and was also carrying a 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun.
According to the affidavit, Perry told police he needed the gun for his own protection and the drugs were for his personal use.
Inside the car, police also found a burnt marijuana cigarette and a small electronic scale.
Kato said the Tominaga murder case is one of the most complex in recent years because it involved multiple suspects, two killings, and searching for Tominaga's body.
"Most of our homicides in Hawai'i are husband and wife, boyfriends and girlfriends and acquaintances," Kato said. "But this was a lot more complex. This involved a missing person who we needed to find first and it involved a shooting (Fuller's death) that seemed to be, at face value, very unrelated.
"It wasn't until we locked in on the missing person (Tominaga) that we realized there was a connection there."